Preview: Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City

Can the Melbourne Derby match last Saturday’s Sydney version for passion and drama? We’ll soon find out when the newly rebranded City face their biggest test yet – Victory and their Berisha-inspired strike-force in front of an expected crowd of 45,000 rowdy Melbourne fans.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Melbourne Victory Double Header

Melbourne Victory v Canberra United

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 4:45 PM (Local) (4:45 PM AEDT)

Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City FC

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:30 PM AEDT)

Referee: Strebre Delovski

Assistant Referee 1: Luke Brennan

Assistant Referee 2: Jonathan Barreiro

Fourth Official: Shaun Evans

TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 3HD & 3 from 7.15pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, Local Radio VIC, 936 ABC Hobart and ABC Northern Tasmania, 891 ABC Adelaide, Local Radio SA,

Grandstand Digital, ABC Grandstand Online/A-League Live Mobile phone app 

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #MelbDerby

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c) 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 24.Scott GALLOWAY|
**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 18.Dylan MURNANE (returns from international duty), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS (promoted), 24.Scott GALLOWAY (returns from international duty)

Outs: 2.Jason GERIA (ankle)

Unavailable: 4.Nick ANSELL (foot – 2-3 weeks)

Melbourne City FC Line-Up:  1.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 3.Robbie WIELAERT, 5.Erik PAARTALU, 6.Aaron MOOY, 7.Iain RAMSAY, 8.Massimo MURDOCCA, 9.David VILLA, 11.Damien DUFF, 14.James BROWN, 15.David WILLIAMS, 17.Jason HOFFMAN, 18.Paulo RETRE, 20.Tando VELAPHI (GK), 23.Mate DUGANDZIC, 24.Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25.Jacob MELLING, 26.Marc MARINO, 27.Ross ARCHIBALD

**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 25.Jacob MELLING (promoted), 26.Marc MARINO (promoted)

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 10.Robert KOREN (calf – 4-6 weeks), 13.Jonatan Germano (1-4 weeks)

Bluffer's guide

It's a first look at the Melbourne derby in a new guise, with the club formerly known as Melbourne Heart transforming themselves, bankrolled by Manchester City's Abu Dhabi billions and claiming to mean serious business in the Hyundai A-League Season 2014-15.

It hasn't gone according to plan so far though, with John van't Schip's team yet to win and rocked by the news this week that David Villa will leave for over a month just four games into his guest stint, while international marquee Robert Koren - yet to make his debut - has been ruled out until December due to a calf problem.

Victory have been flying by comparison, thumping the Wanderers in Round 1 and earning a valuable draw away to bitter rivals Adelaide last time out. Kevin Muscat's men will be favourites to claim the bragging rights in front of what is expected to be a sold-out Etihad Stadium.

Opta Data stats

Victory demonstrated their capacity to blend steel with silk at Adelaide Oval last Friday night. The visitors had more of the ball (51.8 percent), played more passes (348 to 318), played fewer passes long and passed with more accuracy, both in general and in the opposition half. 

However, they weren't afraid to rough up the Reds when required, putting in more tackles, winning a higher percentage of their challenges and duels, as well as completing more interceptions. 

Those stats indicate that City will have to be at their very best on Saturday, both to deny Victory possession and to have a chance of hitting the back of the net. 

Route to goal

Victory's major flaw in their 1-1 draw with Adelaide was their failure to carve out clear cut opportunities. Besart Berisha was a frustrated figure up top, the Reds' fluid 3-4-3 formation helping to swamp midfield and reduce the effectiveness of Archie Thompson, Kosta Barbarouses and playmaker Guilherme Finkler. 

City meanwhile had plenty of the ball in the final third during their own 1-1 draw with the Newcastle Jets, but struggled to create clear-cut chances.

Much will depend on who wins the midfield battle between Mark Milligan and Carl Valeri on one side and Aaron Mooy, Erik Paartalu and Massimo Murdocca on the other. 

Who's been in the spotlight this week?

David Villa hit the headlines for the wrong reasons this week, with news the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid superstar will leave after Round 4 and may not return until mid December at the earliest, if it all.

Form lines 

Victory have made a strong start to the season with a 4-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers FC in Round 1 and a hard-fought 1-1 draw away to Adelaide United on Friday.

They defeated Tuggeranong United 6-0 away from home in the Westfield FFA Cup round of 16 and tackle Perth Glory, also on the road, in the quarter-finals next Wednesday.

City drew 1-1 in Sydney against FC during the opening weekend and were held at home to the Newcastle Jets by the same scoreline on Sunday.

Van 't Schip's team bowed out of the Westfield FFA Cup at the hands of the Sky Blues in the round of 32, but did sign off on their pre-season with two successive wins, against Pascoe Vale and Perth Glory.

Did you know?

If, as expected, the derby sells out on Saturday, it will be one of the biggest crowds for a football match at Melbourne's Docklands venue since the Hyundai A-League grand final in season 2009-10 between Victory and Sydney FC, a game the Sky Blues won on penalties. 

Prediction

Melbourne Victory 2-1 Melbourne City

With Villa still among their ranks for now, City have the firepower to trouble Victory, but can their defence stand up to its first real test of the campaign?

When the Jets had a tilt in the second half at AAMI Park they found a few holes in the home side's rearguard.

Muscat's men are more generously equipped with attacking talent than the Hunter outfit, so it's hard to see City keeping out Finkler, Berisha, Barbarouses and co. 

The best hope for Van't Schip's team is if Paartalu and Mooy can deny Milligan and Valeri the possession Victory require to dictate terms, although the Big V can still be a potent threat on the counter.

Either way, we think the odds are stacked in favour of those in navy blue and white.